Relax your way into needs-based selling

We’re all aware of the 80 / 20 rule in sales – that is that 80% of salespeople answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Do you adopt a needs-based selling approach with your customers?’ Yet when the customer is asked the same question only 20% answer in the affirmative.

Why is this? How can 2 groups of people be so far apart in their answer to the same question?

You can bet many of these salespeople have completed sales training courses that we’re sure are very effective, yet they still fall into the 80%.

So what’s it all about? It’s all about needs-based selling!

We think there are a number of explanations for the 80 / 20 rule when selling but one of the main ones is that of eagerness of the salesperson.

Early in a sales meeting the salesperson will often hear a specific need from a customer. The biggest trap that the salesperson falls into is in getting straight into solution mode for this need, where they risk getting the solution wrong when they don’t fully understand the customer.

So what should we do?

Relax, take a deep breath, and… park the need!

Rather than go into solution mode (read – product pushing) say something like:

“That’s great, we definitely have a solution to meet this need, but before we discuss that I’d like to ask you a few more questions to make sure that I fully understand your business. Is that ok?”

Taking this approach sends the following messages:

  • That you are interested in fully understanding their needs.
  • That you’re not trying to sell them anything.
  • That you want to build a strong relationship with them.
  • That you care about the customer and any premature recommendation is likely to disappoint them.

Some people will say that sales takes a lot of self-confidence. We’d agree with that but we’d add that it takes more self-confidence to step back and admit that you don’t know everything. It’s acknowledging this and the need to ask more questions that sets great salespeople apart.

Oh, and don’t forget to get back to that initial need!


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Brendan Walsh